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When Rexam Pharma GmbH became Nemera, the company also inherited its MotionBLITZ® Cube3 camera by Mikrotron. Based in La Verpillière, France, the company designs, develops and manufactures drug delivery solutions. The range of products comprises eye drops, inhalers, injectors and insulin pens.

At the Neuenburg site in south Germany, the company produces innovative dispensing systems made of thermoplastics. The injection molded parts are put together by fully automated high-speed assembly lines, right through to the finished product.

Manufacturing dispenser systems
Pick-and-place assembly of drug dispensers

Extremely high quality standards are imposed on manufacturing drug dispensing systems. Simultaneously, such systems must meet the requirements of a very fast clock rate in multi-shift operation.

In 2006, Mr. Martin, then Production Manager at REXAM Pharma GmbH, was on the lookout for an effective way of analyzing the rapid injection molding and assembly processes. While assembly methods had been developed at slower speeds, problems arose in rapid production with causes that often could not be directly identified. Mr. Back needed a method of resolving the processes millisecond by millisecond.

Scoring points in the selection process

Initial experiments with normal camcorders were not a success. The feasible frame rates, image quality and other necessary requirements were found to be lacking. To this end, Mr Back researched high-speed video cameras. Three vendors were shortlisted, who then put their cameras to the test in three identical scenarios. The specific, practical tests enabled the company to make comparable observations. 

The MotionBLITZ® Cube3 was deemed the favourite thanks to its performance, compactness and mobility. The high-speed camera also exceeded their expectations with its modular software architecture and cost-effective investment framework. 

Troubleshooting blister pack production
Troubleshooting blister pack production with the help of slow motion studies

The convenient internal triggering functions as well as the external control capability via machine signals proved to be especially important. The unique “ImageBLITZ” auto trigger reacts to specific changes in the image content and thereby captures even sporadically arising events quickly and accurately.

The slow-motion video to the left shows the production of blister packs for one-day contact lenses. What you see is the ejection of the packs after molding. This pressing process kept faltering, as one blister pack repeatedly got stuck on the pin. Slow-motion analysis helped to synchronize the interval time with a precision in the millisecond range. At a resolution of 1,280 x 1,024 px the MotionBLITZ® Cube3 delivered 500 frames per second.

Improving syringe production

As the MotionBLITZ® Cube3 high-speed camera is easy to use, employees were keen to work with it. Within six months of purchasing the camera, employees had carried out some 25 studies in various areas of production. 

Easy handling of the Cube3 high-speed camera
Slow motion analysis of the pick-and-place process
Handling the MotionBLITZ® Cube3 is very easy and can be used for various troubleshotting purposes

For example, one study examined insulin syringe production. At production rates of approximately 200 pieces per minute, components were damaged, leading to disruptions as well as machine downtimes. However, when the machines were programmed for slower production, everything functioned perfectly. At normal production speeds, errors often occurred. The cause was not immediately apparent and components seemed to be positioned incorrectly. All these factors combined to result in poor performance and reduced quality.

High-speed imaging was able to provide clear evidence of cause and effect: the grippers simply opened too soon. The machine’s control signal was recorded simultaneously in each video frame. This demonstrated how many milliseconds too soon the grippers had opened. Following this, the machine was reprogrammed together with the suppliers. In comparison to previous levels, efficiency was improved by some 10%.

Recovering investment in a few easy steps

The following studies with the MotionBLITZ® Cube3 also resulted in great outcomes. Some 80% of the analyses produced precise time-based conclusions, which were used to adjust the production machines and to achieve optimisation. Mr. Martin Back observes: “Anyone who discovers an error starts the chain of optimisation. Right from a machine operator or a machine setter, through to a process optimiser – although this was not our initial plan. The results far exceeded our expectations.”

Mounting a plastic half shell in slow motion
In the assembly line a thermoplastic half shell is mounted within 267.5 ms. The high-speed video shows the process step by step.

He also mentions, “we undershot the scheduled amortisation period of two years.” Now, even after nearly ten years, the MotionBLITZ® Cube3 continues to provide useful service and “assists in difficult situations.”He also mentions, “we undershot the scheduled amortisation period of two years.” Now, even after nearly ten years, the MotionBLITZ® Cube3 continues to provide useful service and “assists in difficult situations.”

The company now uses the MotionBLITZ® Cube3 as standard when it comes to installing new machinery and equipment. However, the company is aiming even higher than this. The sooner it is possible to detect problems and sources of error, the better production process will be. As such, when purchasing machines, the company goes directly to the supplier and uses the high-speed camera to analyse problematic cases during system inspection.